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especially issues related to energy use, land use, and green infrastructure, as well as broader sustainability issues (Auld et al., 2008; Vine et al., 2001). With such a diversification and proliferation of certification systems and standards, credibility, equitability, usability, and unintended consequences have become important challenges. These can all be evaluated through scientific research efforts (NRC, 2010d; Oldenburg et al., 2009). For example, research will be needed to improve understanding and analysis of the credibility and effectiveness of specific approaches, including positive and negative unintended consequences. Analysis in this domain, as with many of the others discussed in this chapter, will require integrative and interdisciplinary approaches that span a range of scientific disciplines and also require input from decision makers.


Climate change has the potential to intersect with virtually every aspect of human activity, with significant repercussions for things that people care about. The risks associated with climate change have motivated many decision makers to begin to take or plan actions to limit climate change or adapt to its impacts. These actions and plans, in turn, place new demands on climate change research. While scientific research alone cannot determine what actions should be taken in response to climate change, it can inform, assist, and support those who must make these important decisions.

The seven integrative, crosscutting research themes described in this chapter are critical elements of a climate research endeavor that seeks to both improve understanding and to provide input to and support for climate-related actions and decisions, and these themes would form a powerful foundation for an expanded climate change research enterprise. Such an enterprise would continue to improve our understanding of the causes, consequences, and complexities of climate change from an integrated perspective that considers both human systems and the Earth system. It would also inform, evaluate, and improve society’s responses to climate change, including actions that are or could be taken to limit the magnitude of climate change, adapt to its impacts, or support more effective climate-related decisions.

Several of the themes in this chapter represent new or understudied elements of climate change science, while others represent established research programs. Progress in all seven themes is needed (either iteratively or concurrently) because they are synergistic. Meeting this expanded set of research requirements will require changes in the way climate change research is supported, organized, and conducted. Chapter 5 discusses how this broader, more integrated climate change research enterprise might be formulated, organized, and conducted, and provides recommendations for the new era of climate change research.

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